The sides are looking to participate in the upcoming edition of I-League 2.

Old powerhouses of Indian football in the form of Dempo SC and Shillong Lajong are set to make a comeback to national football as they gear up to take part in the upcoming 2022-23 I-League 2. Both these teams were popular names among the Indian football fraternity during the peak of the I-League a decade ago.

After the onset of the ISL, the teams became insignificant. But the good news is that the teams are highly interested in getting back to footballing ways outside their home state. For that, participating in the I-League 2 is the automatic choice. This league lies at the third level of the Indian football league system. Climbing up the ladder through the I-League to get to the ISL is thus the most convenient way for these sides to compete at the top level.

Track Record of Dempo SC and Shillong Lajong

Despite not being in the top-tier football scene since 2016, Dempo SC remains one of the most successful clubs in India with five league titles between 2005 and 2012. The side won these titles under the tutelage of Armando Colaco and proved to be a force in Indian football for a very long time.

The club withdrew from the I-League in 2016 in protest against relegating the league to the second division after ISL became the de facto top-tier league in India. Today, Dempo plays within Goa in the Goa Professional League. After a title drought of one decade, Dempo won the finest football league in Goa in 2022. Consequently, Dempo SC has qualified for the second division I-League. Fans will soon see the old powerhouse take on the pitch outside their state.

The story has been quite similar for Shillong Lajong. They participated in the I-League between 2009 and 2019. Despite not winning the I-League, Shillong Lajong was a force to reckon with in the league, especially at their home ground in Shillong. Nowadays, the club has been playing in the Shillong Premier League.

The side has won the league four times, the most recent in 2019. It is high time for the club to return to national football and induce the magic of more North-eastern football into the league system of the country.

What’s next?

Dempo SC has already qualified for the final rounds of the second division league as the winners of the Goa Professional League. For Shillong Lajong, the road is bumpier than Dempo, as they have to play in the second division I-League 2022-23 Qualifiers. These qualifiers will take place in mid-February.

There are four teams in the qualifiers. The top two teams selected from these through a round-robin competition will get the opportunity to participate in the second division I-League. With Shillong Lajong’s past experience of playing in the top flight, fans will expect the side to be among the top two and qualify. If that happens, we will witness the return of two old clubs back to the country’s mainstream football system.

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